Prof. Joseph Molleur
Prall House 101
Office Phone: 895-4237

REL. 325: The Buddhist Way

Aim of the Course

This course will explore the core teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, with special attention to the Buddhist understanding of reality, analysis of the human condition, and path to Nirvana. In the first half of the course, we will examine both of the great branches of the Buddhist family, Theravada (sometimes referred to as Hinayana or "lesser vehicle") and Mahayana ("greater vehicle"). Then, in the course's second half, we will undertake an in-depth study of two of the most fascinating and influential expressions of the Mahayana school, Tibetan (Tantric) Buddhism and Zen Buddhism.

Educational Priorities and Outcomes

1. Students will acquire, integrate, and apply knowledge relating to multiple expressions of the Buddhist religious tradition.
2. Students will read and analyze challenging texts, speak clearly and listen actively as we discuss those texts, and write essays explaining their understanding and interpretation of those texts.
3. Students will connect with diverse ideas and with people whose experiences differ from their own as we explore how Buddhism has been understood and practiced in India, Tibet, China, and Japan over the course of many centuries.
4. Students will respect the ways spiritual well-being may contribute to a balanced life by learning about Buddhist practices of meditation and devotion.
This course supports the Educational Priorities and Outcomes of Cornell College with emphases on knowledge, communication, intercultural literacy, and well-being.


Sophomore standing is prerequisite for this course.

Class Meeting Times

After the first day of class (on which the class meets at 12:00 noon), class meetings will be held on weekdays from 12:15 to 3:00 PM.

Course Requirements

1. Class Participation (20% of final grade). Regular attendance at class meetings and regular participation in class discussions are expected. Additionally, each student will take a turn at initiating class discussion by identifying, and raising a question about, a passage in the assigned reading that they find particularly interesting. More than one absence from class will progressively lower this portion of your grade.

2. Midterm Exam (25%), which will take place on the second Thursday of the term. The exam will contain both short answer and short essay questions.

3. A 4-5 page essay (25%), due on the third Wednesday of the term. Late essays will not be accepted without prior consent of the professor.

4. A take-home Final Exam (30%), due by 1:00 PM on the fourth Wednesday of the term.

Required Texts

1. Peter Harvey, An Introduction to Buddhism.
2. E. A. Burtt, ed., The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha.
3. Lama Yeshe, Introduction to Tantra.
4. D. T. Suzuki, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism.

Students with Special Needs

Students who need accommodations for learning disabilities must provide documentation from a professional qualified to diagnose learning disabilities. For more information see Students requesting services may schedule a meeting with the  disabilities services coordinator as early as possible to discuss their needs and develop an individualized accommodation plan. Ideally, this meeting would take place well before the start of classes. At the beginning of each course, the student must notify the instructor within the first three days of the term of any accommodations needed for the duration of the course.

 Academic Honesty

Cornell College expects all members of the Cornell community to act with academic integrity. An important aspect of academic integrity is respecting the work of others. A student is expected to explicitly acknowledge ideas, claims, observations, or data of others, unless generally known. When a piece of work is submitted for credit, a student is asserting that the submission is her or his work unless there is a citation of a specific source. If there is no appropriate acknowledgment of sources, whether intended or not, this may constitute a violation of the College's requirement for honesty in academic work and may be treated as a case of academic dishonesty. The procedures regarding how the College deals with cases of academic dishonesty appear in The Catalogue, under the heading “Academic Honesty.”

Course Calendar

Note: The reading assignments listed in this course calendar are to be completed PRIOR to that day's meeting of the class.


Monday: Getting oriented.

Tuesday: Introducing Siddhartha Gautama and His Central Teachings.
Peter Harvey, An Introduction to Buddhism, Introduction-Chapter 3.

Wednesday: The Central Teachings of the Buddha Illustrated.
E. A. Burtt, Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha, Parts I and II.

Thursday: The Spirit of Theravada Buddhism.
(a) Harvey, Chapter 4 (through p. 89).
(b) Burtt, Part III.

Friday: Mahayana Buddhism: Religious Ideal and Holy Beings.
(a) Harvey, pp. 89-94 and Chapter 6.
(b) Burtt, Part IV.


Monday: Mahayana Buddhism: Philosophical Underpinnings.
(a) Harvey, Chapter 5.
(b) Burtt, Part V.

Tuesday: Buddhist Devotional Practices.
(a) Harvey, Chapter 8.
(b) Burtt, Part VI.1-5.

Wednesday: Buddhist Practices of Meditation.
(a) Harvey, Chapter 11.
(b) Burtt, Part VI.6-10 and Epilogue.


Friday: Tibetan ("Tantric") Buddhism.
Lama Yeshe, Introduction to Tantra, Preface and chaps. 1-5.


Monday: Yeshe, chaps. 6-9.

Tuesday: Yeshe, chaps. 10-12 and Afterword from 1st ed. (photocopy provided).

In-class viewing of the film, Dalai Lama: The Soul of Tibet.

Thursday: Zen Buddhism.
D. T. Suzuki, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism, Foreword and chaps 1-3.

Friday: Suzuki, chaps. 4-7.


Monday: Suzuki, chaps. 8-9.

Tuesday: No class--work on final exam.

Wednesday: FINAL EXAM DUE BY 1:00 PM.

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